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There’s no real way to sugarcoat this: Sometimes our feline family members have urinary problems. What’s more, when our kitty companions have one of the common cat urinary problems, they aren’t the most forthcoming with information. But with careful monitoring of a cat’s behavior, pet parents can usually discern when there’s a problem and then seek treatment from their veterinarian.

Symptoms of Cat Urinary Problems

While a kitty can’t tell their pet parents they don’t feel good, there are some telltale signs that indicate a problem exists. If your cat exhibits any of the following symptoms or behaviors, they should see their veterinarian and be evaluated. Cat urinary problems are often accompanied by:

  • Frequent urination attempts – If your cat makes frequent trips to the litter box, they’re probably producing very little urine each time. When a cat can’t urinate or only urinates in small increments, they don’t remove toxins from their bodies, which can lead to larger medical concerns.
  • Strained or painful urination – When a cat is straining to urinate or is visibly in pain (learn how to tell your pet is in pain) while going to the bathroom, this can indicate the existence of a blockage or bladder inflammation. Cats experiencing pain when they tinkle may also lick their private area, which can further indicate a medical issue.
  • Bloody or cloudy urine – Cats dealing with a urinary problem can produce bloody urine. Bloody urine may sound hard to identify given a cat’s use of a litter box, but cats who have urinary tract issues may go potty outside of their litter box, often choosing cool, smooth places like the bathtub.
  • Change in behavior – Since our pets can’t tell us they’re sick, it often takes some careful observation from the pet parents to notice a change in behavior when their furry friend is ill. Cats who have urinary tract problems can increase their water consumption, become lethargic, exhibit fear of their litter box, and show a loss of appetite.

diagnosing urinary problems in cats _ brown and white cat with veterinarian


Since cat urinary problems can vary and become potentially life threatening, your veterinarian will probably conduct a physical examination, urinalysis, blood tests, and other procedures. An ASPCA Pet Health Insurance plan can help cover the costs of diagnosing many common urinary problems in cats. Get a free quote now, so you can worry less about the expense and get your cat the medical care they need.

Common Cat Urinary Problems

Several different issues can cause cat urinary problems. There are different issues that can affect a cat’s bladder and urethra, and many share the symptoms mentioned above. It’s important for pet parents to get their cat to the veterinarian as soon as possible, so they can pinpoint the precise issue and address the problem accordingly. Some of the most common cat urinary problems are:

Urinary Stones:
These are the accumulation of solid minerals in the cat’s urinary tract. These stones can cause your cat to experience pain when they discharge their bladder. Your vet may need to take an X-ray or perform an ultrasound for proper diagnosis. Once a cat has developed stones, they have a greater likelihood of reoccurrence, even if treated.

Feline Interstitial Cystitis (FIC):
This neurological disease is an inflammation of the bladder and is one of the most common cat urinary problems. FIC can cause strained or painful urination, increased urgency to urinate, and bloody urine. If not treated immediately, FIC can be life threatening.

Urethral Obstruction:
This is the most serious problem associated with a cat’s urinary tract and should be treated as a medical emergency. Urethral obstruction takes place when the urethra becomes partially or entirely blocked off. Urinary stones and urethral plugs (compressed minerals, cells, and protein) can cause urethral obstruction. Once blocked, the kidneys are no longer able to remove toxins from the body. Cats experiencing urethral obstruction can display strained urination, make frequent visits to the litter box, and experience pain when relieving themselves.

Male Cat Urinary Problems

While cat urinary problems affect both feline genders, male cats are often more prone to urinary tract infections due to their urethra being narrower than their female counterparts. Urethral obstruction, in particular, affects male cats more often than it does female cats. Medical procedures are available to widen the urethra. However, this is often seen as a last resort. 

how to treat common urinary problems in cats _ tabby cat in pink litter box


Treatment options vary with each condition and level of severity. While the most common cat urinary tract problems share similar symptoms, they still require different and varying levels of care. If your cat develops a urinary tract infection, your veterinarian is likely to suggest one or more of the following treatments:

  • Dietary adjustments
  • Antibiotics
  • Urinary acidifiers
  • Fluid therapy
  • Urinary catheter to remove blockage (male cats)
  • Surgery

why do cats go outside the litter box _ tabby cat in a brown litter box


Unfortunately, once your cat has experienced urinary problems, they’re like to periodically reoccur. That’s the bad news. The good news? There are steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of recurring cat urinary issues.

First thing is to make sure your kitty companion has regular check-ups with their veterinarian. Also, to help reduce the likelihood of cat urinary problems and foster proper urination, pet parents should:

  • Make fresh water available at all times
  • Provide small, frequent meals
  • Keep environmental stress to a minimum
  • Place the litter box in a peaceful area in your home
  • Maintain high cleaning standards for the litter box 

Going Outside the Litter Box

Pet parents love their cats for their individuality and free-spirited nature. However, like children, cats can make choices their parents don’t agree with or don’t understand.

One such choice a cat often makes is to go potty outside of their litter box. There are many nonmedical reasons why cats choose to relieve themselves outside of their box. On the positive side, your cat isn’t physically ill. On the downside, your cat is going to the bathroom in inappropriate places because they aren’t happy. When a cat goes potty outside of the box, they’re likely:

Trying to tell you something:
When your cat goes outside of the box, you should think inside of it. They might be sending you a message. If this happens, make sure to clean the box often and thoroughly. If cleanliness isn’t the problem, there’s a chance your kitty comrade simply doesn’t like their litter box because it’s too small, has a hood or liner they don’t like, or is too deep. It’s also important to mention that, if you have more than one cat, you need to have more than one litter box. It’s recommended that pet parents use at least a 1:1 ratio when it comes to cats and their commodes.

Being a bit particular:
Cats, like their humans, have preferences. They’re just about different things. It should be no surprise to pet parents if their cat prefers one brand of litter to another, or if they develop a preference for different surfaces or textures to go to the bathroom on. If your cat develops a litter or texture preference, try using different types and brands until you find the one your cat likes best.

Marking their territory:
Urine marking is one of the ways cats communicate with each other. This helps them avoid disputes by letting other cats know what property is theirs, when they were last in the area, and, if a pattern develops, when they can be expected back. However, if pet parents have their kitties spayed or neutered and maintain a stable living environment, there’s less likelihood a cat will urine mark.

Is your cat’s potty problem more of a solid issue? Get the inside scoop on cat poop!

An ASPCA Pet Health Insurance plan can help cover the costs of treating many common urinary problems in cats

See the Signs

Our feline friends often display quirky behaviors that are as unique as their personalities. But pet parents need to be aware that sometimes cats act a certain way because they’re trying to tell us something. If your cat is urinating outside of the litter box, remember: they’re not doing it to be rebellious. Instead, they’re probably doing it because something about their box is stressing them out. Use this opportunity to make their litter box more inviting.

If your feline friend displays any of the common symptoms of a cat urinary problem, it’s important to get them to the veterinarian for a physical examination to make sure they’re healthy and comfortable.

Did you know? An ASPCA Pet Health Insurance plan can help cover the costs of treating many common urinary problems in cats. Learn more and get a free quote now.

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